Monday, October 12, 2009

When Fish Sing

I've been spending the better part of my stay in Sri Lanka in Batticaloa. Batticaloa (or Batti) is situated in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, about a seven hour car ride from Colombo, on a tiny island. It doesn't really feel like an island - there are bridges connecting the city center with the mainland.

Although I wasn't really impressed during my first visit back in July, it does have a certain charm. It helps that I love Sri Lanka overall, but it also seems to me to be a very laid-back city, surrounded by water and a low key attitude. I may be smelling hope, too. After years of civil war, the roads are finally being repaired and development funds are coming to the city, and the tourism industry is reigniting.

All the guidebooks tout Batticaloa as "the city with the singing fish". I asked our country manager about this, who is not from Batti, and he didn't believe me - until I pointed out the sign under the town archway announcing those very words. I'm always interested in local lore, and truth be told, more than mildly amused by the thought of singing fish.

I've begun asking around about this myth. Surprisingly, the interwebs are relatively quiet on the subject. Here's the obligatory wiki positing; as well as a posting on Batticaloa online which says pretty much the same thing. There's a facebook page, but that doesn't say much.

I've also asked around to my work colleagues and (because I'm generally obnoxious when it comes to this kind of thing) anyone (busboys, drivers, kids on the street...).

The story is more or less the same: If you stand at Lady Manning bridge on Kallady between the hours of 1-3am on a moonlight night, and stick your ear close to an oar in the water, you can hear the fish sing. Some people told me that since the civil war started in the 80's, the fish stopped singing. Others have said that a Father Miller (who recently just left to go back to America) had a recording. Strangely enough, the wiki post also claims that another father had another recording, way back in the 60's.

Coincidentally, my hotel sits on the shoreline of Kallady, right next to Lady Manning bridge. I realized that the reason one must go to the bridge between the hours of 1-3 am is that that is the only time there isn't any noisy traffic. The fish could be singing the entire day, but we'd never know it! I awoke at 11pm last night, and laid awake until 2am, wondering - daring- myself to head out the bridge. However, my desire to not get run over by a truck outweighed by intrinsic interest in all things paranormal. Plus, it wasn't a full moon anyway.

So the mystery remains. I'm going to keep digging. Such a fantastic story requires some looking into.

1 comment:

Muse for Hire said...

*love it. :)